Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
Because of what I do and my struggle, frequently I am involved with someone who is having suicidal thoughts. Just this past week, I talked to a young man about taking methods of suicide out of his home.
Suicidal thoughts are rarely “cured” by a stay on the behavioral health ward of the local hospital. That is why step-down programs exist. I like the following handout* which I received after my latest discharge.
Everyone’s Recovery is Different. Some people have persistent thoughts of suicide. For others, such thoughts may accompany certain moods or circumstances. Here are some steps you can take to prevent negative and destructive thoughts in the future and to keep you safe. You may also want to consider adding some of these steps to your safety plan.
- Remove the means for hurting yourself from your environment: Work with [an] ally to remove methods of hurting yourself – it is better not to have these things around while you are recovering. For example, if you use medication, keep only a few days’ supplies on hand and ask someone else to hold the rest.
- Identify what starts or sets off these thoughts for you: It may be an anniversary of a painful event, for instance, or seeing a knife in the kitchen. Plan to minimize the effect of those triggers on your life. Sometimes you can avoid them or train yourself to respond differently, or you can involve your allies ahead of time to help you face a difficult situation. Remember that life events do not cause suicide, but they can increase the risk of an attempt.
- Learn about mental illness: Someone who has had or is living with suicidal thoughts may be suffering from a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression.
- Learn about crisis hotlines: Hotlines provide you with a trained person to talk to when you are having suicidal thoughts. This person will listen to you and help you choose another path. They may work with you on your safety plan or help you create a safety plan if you do not have one.
- Participate in a mutual peer-support group: There are many types of support groups. Learning from others and sharing your experiences can make a big difference in the way you think about your life. It may also help to save the life of someone else.
- Get involved in life: Finding a hobby or enjoying a favorite activity – such as listening to music, watching your favorite movie, or collecting things – is a great way to help you cope when things get tough. Hobbies or activities that involve interacting with others are an especially good idea. Make sure you have access to the things you enjoy if your negative thoughts come back so you know you can turn to something that brings you comfort and enjoyment.
Remember – there are reasons to live and make things better. You can survive, and even thrive, despite the way you feel sometimes. Recovery is possible.
(And I add Amen. – Nancy)
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
-pictures from Qualitystockphotos.com
*From Suicide: Information and Resources, a handout by MainLine Health. The heading is Next Steps: Moving Ahead and Coping with Future Thoughts of Suicide.